Austrian Man Finds 40,000-Year-Old Mammoth Bones in His Wine Cellar

Experts are calling the find an “archaeological sensation.”

Mikado with ribs, by OeAl archaeologist Marc Händel when uncovering the bones. © OeAW-OeAl/H. Parow-Souchon

An Austrian wine grower in Gobelsburg made a remarkable discovery while renovating his cellar: enormous Stone Age mammoth bones. Andreas Pernerstorfer’s astonishing find led him to contact the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW), which dispatched a team of specialists to the site, about 45 miles from Vienna, in mid-May.

According to archaeologists Thomas Einwögerer and Hannah Parow-Souchon, who are leading the excavation, the “significant bone layer” indicates the remains of at least three different mammoths, dating from between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago. “Such a dense bone layer of mammoths is rare,” said Parow-Souchon. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to investigate something like this in Austria using modern methods.”

two people in dark blue jackets kneel on a dusty brown floor examining ancient mammoth bones

Team of the OeAl research group Quarternary Archaeology, exposing the bone position. © OeAW-OeAl/H. Parow-Souchon

Approximately 300 bones have been uncovered, including rare anatomy such as a lingual (tongue) bone, all of which account for three skeletons.

The presence of these remains could be evidence that humans caught the mammoths in a trap, which raises many questions about how Stone Age people were able to successfully pursue such large animals. “We know that humans hunted mammoths, but we still know very little about how they did it,” added Parow-Souchon.

Once excavation is complete, the bones will be handed over to the Natural History Museum Vienna, where they will undergo restoration.

A woman in a red jacket crouches over several ancient mammoth bones hidden in a brown dusty floor

Thomas Einwögerer and Hannah Parow-Souchon preparing the bones for recovery. Photo © Yannik Merkl.

The find is being called an “archaeological sensation” by researchers at the OeAW. The last discovery of this magnitude was also made in Gobelsburg some 150 years ago. A thick layer of bone, decorative fossils, flint artifacts, and charcoal were discovered in another cellar nearby. Archaeologists have now zoned these areas collectively as a “significant bone site.”

Other recent major mammoth discoveries include a groundbreaking DNA extraction in 2021, from million-year-old molars found in northeast Siberia. The advance smashed the record for the oldest genome ever sequenced.

Another excavation came in the form of a 25,000-year-old Ice Age structure unearthed in Russia, some 200 miles south of Moscow. The 40-foot-wide arrangement was constructed from the bones of 60 woolly mammoths and included walls, fire pits, and an area for butchery.

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